August 22, 2004
Off to beautiful Montreal in a few hours planning on visiting Mr. van Veen, eating well, and enjoying nomadism before starting grad school. If things go as planned I will return in a week riding Amtrak straight under the heart of American evil. Unless of course we've scared them off by then.
And yeah I'll make sure not to smuggle any cheese.
August 20, 2004
Social No Dead
And that my friends is of course the surest is sign that something interesting is brewing in the world of social networking websites.
The problem lies not with the experts themselves, all of the ones linked above I have a great deal of respect for. No, it lies with experts in general.
The value of an expert? It comes not from an ability to predict, but from an ability to identify and bring insight to the near past. Prediction? That's a suckers game. The odds are heavily in the house's favor, and no one even knows who the house is... Plenty of religions, and not a few philosophers, will be happy to sell you a theory though. Me? Well there is only one type of prediction with good odds, the overly broad and vague one.
In the world of music Simon Reynolds has argued that innovation tends to occur in those genres most ignored by critics, while the critical spotlight does nothing but generate stagnation. Or perhaps its just that the critics are perpetually a little late to the party.. Social software just had its little hyped up media year, and the result was close to zero innovation. And now the critics are bored, looking for a new trend to "predict" a couple minutes before their colleagues find out what's up. And like an ignored musical scene, nothing could be riper for innovation.
MySpace, Friendster and company are far from gone. In fact new online softwares like Flickr and Dodgeball have actually been tossing in friendster clones into their systems as secondary, behind the scenes options. Social software is getting boring not because its dying, but because its becoming omnipresent. And millions of kids are now playing around with the dozens of systems out there. In other words the party's just beginning.
Unlike almost any software before it, social networking involves the complex interactions between thousands to millions of users. It works not on the level of the enterprise or the user, but on the levels of community and culture. So while the software might run in the global hyperspeeds of internet time, the effects I suspect will be far slower. What innovations will emerge out of the massive Brazilian population on Orkut? Or the from globalized social networks visualized and materialized on Friendster? The real test of social software is not the opinions of the experts, but the fact that there are still millions of users. I'm not predicting much then that something will emerge, something always does when the new tech hits the streets, hits the teens. And odds are its going to take a lot longer to materialize then the experts (and me) have patience for. So hurry on toward that next obsession y'all, but don't forget to check back from time to time...
August 19, 2004
This whole health/diet thing? It's looking more and more like the music industry, no? Big budget, slick entertainment, with genres multiplying cancerous like electronic music.
Pretty soon health food stores will be organized like record shops. Atkins straight in front when you walk in, South Beach on the left. Vitamins are segregated in a quiet back room like the classical music department and all the fat free stuff in some corner like jazz and the cut out bins.
The hardcore underground, raw foods, maker's diet heads? They'll have their own little shops where the staff will sneer at you as walk in, then return to their argument over whether cooking starts at 119 or 120 degrees and if vinegar is allowed.
Meanwhile American's will continue to find ways to get fatter...
August 13, 2004
I don't know enough about Reggaeton and neither it seems does the internet.
You'd never know it the occupied zones of Manhattan, but Reggaeton just might be the biggest music in New York right now. Its certainly the fastest growing. Like hip hop before it (and salsa too I suspect) its evolving isolated from the outoftowners and media forces that think they define New York. One wonders if they'll pimp it world wide when they finally wake up, or are they perhaps too scared to wake to the spanish?
Indian Summer Jams
Its mid August and summer's barely touched New York. The humidity showed its face today and it felt more like a warm familar embrace then the embalming body hold that tends to grip these concrete streets. VJ cue 'Do the Right Thing', ice cube scene.
Like the heat, the musical summer's been creeping up slow, threatening never to show. Threatening not to give us that summer jam. Early on it looked all Nina Sky. But it never felt quite right. While Nina Sky came complete with sickly sweet pop perfection, latin freestyle meets a dancehall riddim, flawless. But somehow it felt all throwback, the producers it seems never learned the lesson perfected by the Britney's and Aguilera's. Perfect pop is not just sugar hooks, it needs a shadow, a hint of a darkside, just subversive enough to peak an eyebrow, not enough to snarl a lip.
Its practically an indian summer now, and behind the Sky girls have crept up 3 more contenders. To honor the humidity I put all four on loop in iTunes and braved an hour.
'Move Your Body' as might be expected fell the quickest, a perfect surface, no deeper hooks. The other 3? Kevin Lyttle's 'Turn Me On', Franz Ferdinand's 'Take Me Out' and Fat Joe and the Terror Squad's 'Lean Back'.
'Lean Back' strangly enough starts out with nearly the same cord as 'Take Me Out', DJ's take note. Otherwise they couldn't be different. And while 'Take Me Out' fills a dancefloor iller then any indie rock in nearly a decade, I still can't take the aging rock genre seriously enough. Subversion again, rock once owned it, but the thone is hip hop's now.
Fat Joe rise to pop royalty has been a long slow and remarkable journey. Unlike so many fake gangsta rappers, it always felt like Fat Joe wasn't joking when he called himself Joey Crack. Factor in the fat and the puerto rican and you've got a pretty remarkable pop star. But it seems like Joe's been sitting in the South Bronx steadily learning, steadily tweaking his formula, steadily building toward the monster hit.
The breaking point I suspect came not in the metoric rise and fall of close friend Big Pun, but the form of Ja Rule, the man who truly defined the pop hip hop form before 50 Cent ruthlessly took him down. It was Ja Rule and producer Irv Gotti that seemed to learn that almost no one actually listens to hip hop lyrics, at least in a mass market context. As long as you have that hook in the chorus you can say just about anything else in the verses. Instant pop subversion. You don't even need to make it subtle the way the singers do. Just say some foul pimp/gangsta shit in the verses and slice in a sweet popism for the radio. Fat Joe got in quick with an early Ashanti duet, pulling in Ja Rule to litterally do nothing but growl. A few more moderate hits later and finally 'Lean Back'.
I can't remember the last time New York hip hop came out with a song with dance attached ala the Lean Back, aka the Rockaway. The Pee Wee Herman is the most recent that comes to mind, but there must be something between then and now. I guess it takes a fat Puerto Rican to drop a dance so ice cold that New York's head noddering thugs actually move. If only to lean back, stare at the ceiling and move their sholders to the beat. Yep its the summertime, do the Rockaway.
But while 'Lean Back' is the dancefloor's undisputed champ, its the sleeper song that has me hooked. Kevin Lyttle is perhaps even more unlikely to be riding the top of the US pop charts then Joe. Hailing from St. Vincent, Lyttle isn't even from Soca's homeland. Yet some how he's brought Soca into the US charts, albeit in a form that could easily be confused with either dancehall or R&B. That can't exactly have been an easy formula to perfect... But maybe its the perfect musical heroin, I've been hooked since it first poured out of some dancehall mix springtime. Now it seems the whole nation is about to cop a fix.
August 12, 2004
So just where did Giuliani put all the homeless people? Anyone who spent real time in NY will know what I'm talking about. Anyone whose spent real time in SF lately will suspect NY just shipped all their homeless people to the Bay. But really its been bothering me for years, where are they all? Prison? Queens? New Jersey? Its not like there are all these new inexpensive homes in NY...